Hello and Welcome to DOCENT - your guide to design intelligence, creative solutions and earthly beauty.
Today’s DOCENT briefing is on my mission to create “interiors that look and FEEL good” by incorporating the Principles of Interior Design. As a half-engineer/half artist, I can tell you that creative expression soars when you build on a solid foundation of design intelligence.
This process of shaping the experience of a space draws on aspects of psychology, neuroscience, architecture and geometry. While every project requires hundreds of individual choices, these 6 Design Principles complement each other to strengthen the whole composition. To be clear, creating masterful spaces requires a mix of technical skills, creative confidence and intuition. Sophisticated interior design is less about “painting by numbers” and more like conducting an orchestra.
Showing is the best way of telling, so now let’s move though these 6 Design Principles in practice. Notice how each designer shown makes the Principles her/his own while still working in a framework.
1. UNITY: A feeling of oneness - sense of flow
As the name implies, the principle of UNITY reminds us that there should be a sense of harmony among the elements used. No matter the value of the individual elements, without visual unity a person will feel confused in a space lacking unity. All the elements used should complement one another and create a sense of flow in the space.
In this DWID designed family room, the organic shapes and soft textures are juxtaposed against angular wood elements to create a sense of flow with the abundant views of nature. The design story for this project was “Luxury Treehouse” which helped us create unity throughout the large home. This sophisticated Parisian living room by Jean Louis Deniot beautifully demonstrates a sense of oneness through a color palette while playing with proportions and scale.
Delta Wright Interior Design and Jean Louis Deniot Interiors
2. EMPHASIS: an accentuation of importance - a focal point
I think of the principle of EMPHASIS as a dose of WOW factor. An accentuation that generates interest and draws the viewer in. A well-designed room will have at least one focal point that should make a lasting impression. Some spaces have natural focal points such as a large window or a fireplace. Artwork or an accent wall are also excellent ways to create emphasis.
In his living room, Parisian designer Pierre Yovanovitch anchored the room with a literal artwork of an eye by Mark Quinn above thefireplace. Across the globe in Sydney, in this pared down modernist home by Robson Rak a wall was blasted out to extend the eye towards nature.
Robson Rak Architects and Designers and Pierre Yovanovitch Architecture
3. RHYTHM: an orderly repetition of an object or element
In music, it’s the beat, the pulse that keeps us humming along. In interior design, rhythm is all about visual pattern repetition. The rhythm can be tight and precise, or a progression of color or size. Rhythm creates a sense of visual movement that leads the eye from one design element to another.
In this casual family room by Vincente Wolf, a backdrop of vintage shovels spaced apart equally provides both visual interest and serenity. In this vignette by The Rug Company, a progression of ceremonial African masks matches the beat of the lush Zebra pattern rug.
Vincente Wolf Interiors and The Rug Company
4. CONTRAST: a juxtaposition that accentuates differences
Even a subdued space needs a dose of contrast to bring it alive. Contrast allows designers to emphasize or highlight key elements in the space. The juxtaposition can be subtle or bold - the goal is to keep things interesting and aligned with overall feel. I will say that high contrast requires some risk-taking, but the more you do it the more exciting it becomes. Brazilian architect and designer Sig Bergamin is know for his fearless approach to layering a kaleidoscope of colors, textures, textiles and art. Here he hung a large Chinese figurative painting on geometric wallpaper to accentuate the difference in shapes. On the other hand, in this Richard Mishaan designed living room simply hanging two large color abstraction paintings in a formal setting loosened up the space.
Sig Bergamin Interiors and Richard Mishaan Design
5. SCALE/PROPORTION: a scaling of objects in relation to each other
Proportion is all about context. Mathematicians, scientists and philosophers have long been fascinated by relational patterns found in nature and human bodies. You don’t have to be Leonardo da Vinci to observe the appeal that comes from visual harmony. The Golden Ratio of 1.618 proportional increments is considered to be the key for beauty and used widely as a guide. In both these examples, various widths and heights are used in proportion to the objects next to each other. The differences in scale are noticeable, yet pleasing.
6. BALANCE: a distribution of equal weight
All 6 Design Principles are connected and contribute to “the whole being greater than the sum of its parts”. Change one tiny thing in a room and you can throw off the balance of the rest of the design elements. Balancing the visual and emotional weight in a space is at the heart of interior design. Note there are different kinds of balance. Traditional interiors usually follow symmetrical balance where objects and furnishings are repeated on each side of a vertical axis like this pristine example from Warren Platner Design. Asymmetrical balance is a more fluid, organic experience of equal visual weight, yet also harder to achieve.
London based designer Hubert Zandberg artfully balances textures, shapes and color in this living room.
There are endless ways to apply these 6 Design Principles and that is what I love about my work. I side with the Ancient Greeks who saw the desire for beauty and harmony as a universal value. Creating spaces that “look and FEEL good” is my way of contributing to a more harmonious world.
Until Next Time -